Finding a Marriage Mate
“IF YOU would marry wisely, marry your equal,” said a poet. ‘But who is my equal?’ you might well ask. And so the answer starts not with a look across the dance floor, but with an honest look at yourself. You too have faults, personality flaws; you do not offer perfection. On the other hand, you have certain beliefs, talents, likes and needs. Try hard to see them.
Further, you need to determine your own preparedness for marriage. You cannot just be willing to say “I do.” You must be ready and able to “love, honor and cherish,” as wedlock demands. Do you have a fair understanding of what the roles of husband and wife involve? Do you have a realistic view of life, including matrimony?
In fact, being able honestly to appraise yourself is a good sign of emotional maturity. And it is this quality that you must see both in yourself and in anyone you wish to marry. When you think of a small child married to an adult it is ludicrous, laughable. Yet how sad to marry someone and find that inside an adult body the mind and emotions are those of a child.
How do you evaluate the emotional level of another? Here is where the key to finding a good mate comes in. Call it thinking ability, common sense, or discernment—it means being able to observe others objectively without letting your emotions ‘color over’ the truth. For example, if you see that someone always wants his own way, is easily discouraged and quits, strives to be the center of attention, of whom are you reminded? Yes, a child. “Oh, but he (or, she) is so good-looking!” you may exclaim. Then the individual is but a very attractive child. Think about it some more.
Many would scoff at this emphasis on thinking ability. They claim that the basis for liking another is sheer sexual attraction—‘that is real life.’ There is no doubt that sexual attraction is usually a big factor. Nevertheless, real life, daily living, involves much more than sex. In fact, how you get along all day is going to play a major role in your sexual compatibility. Too, emotionally “grown-up” people recognize that you can be sexually attracted to many, even simultaneously, but that there are comparatively few with whom you can be happily matched.
So, for those who seek a permanent, happy relationship, thinking ability and emotional maturity are essential. Because of this, youths face a particularly difficult barrier. Consider why.
Really there is no set age at which one can be declared emotionally mature. Some never grow up. However, of one thing you can be sure, marrying someone will not instantly make that one grow up. Thus, youths who wish to marry must consider a serious question: What is the likelihood of your prospective partner’s being sufficiently adult emotionally? Would you want to face circumstances like these . . . ?
“I don’t understand what happened to us, but I just don’t love Bill any more. I can’t help it. He’s not the man I married.”
“I’ve outgrown my wife. She can’t give me what I need. She doesn’t have it and never will. I wish I had seen that before we got married.”—The Marriage Gap.
What has happened here? There are, no doubt, several elements. But likely, when they got married, one or both were still having what are called mental and emotional ‘growth spurts.’ Many psychologists agree with Dr. Bowman (Marriage for Moderns), that while humans normally stop growing physically by the late teens, “sometimes even during the early twenties, many individuals are still in the process of rather rapid change in attitudes, tastes, and choices. In many instances, what seems at the time like a permanent choice proves later to have been a tentative one.”
Now think of the impact on two teenagers in an early marriage. In a very real sense, the two persons may each change so much that they bring to the marriage personalities different from those expected. Of course, the couple can work to overcome this obstacle. They do not have to take the negative attitude of those quoted above. However, all of this illustrates the wisdom of the Bible when it discusses making a decision on marriage when one is “past the bloom of youth”—thus more emotionally settled.—1 Cor. 7:36.
Still, even among those emotionally full grown there are many areas that demand discernment of one seeking a mate. One of these is your circle of friends.
Your Relationships with Others
Everyone needs friends. Yet especially if you want to marry do you need to exercise care in your associations. Why? Because, unless you live where marriages are “arranged,” you will probably marry someone met through mutual friends. And your social group will dictate the caliber of people that you are constantly around. Thus, before you are romantically involved, assess your friends.
Are you their “friend” because you financially offer them something? Do you have meaningful relationships with them? Do you really share with them the same beliefs and interests? Has their influence made you a better person? Looking at this circle may seem irrelevant, but it is not. You may see the need to make adjustments in your associations, either dropping some or cautiously ‘widening out’ the circle.
Too, you will find that one of the best ways to get to know a new acquaintance better is to invite the “newcomer” to spend an evening with you along with your friends. This is much safer than immediately dating someone, isolating the relationship and allowing emotion to distort the realities.
At this point, however, some may be thinking: “What circle of friends?” For many it is truly difficult to form friendships and thus even get to know a possible mate. The problem may be shyness and insecurity. Sometimes it is being overly sensitive. With others, there is the feeling that no one is good enough—an attitude of superiority.
In any case, be honest with yourself about the problem and work on it. If you need to, get mature counsel. But do not isolate yourself. A Bible proverb says that “one isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing.” (Prov. 18:1) Whatever the cause, the more you turn inward, the more self-centered you become, the less you offer to others as a basis for friendship.
Happiness comes from giving of yourself, from extending yourself to others. Communicating well with other people, thinking in terms of how to help and love other people are valuable assets to bring to a marriage. Drawing off to yourself in a dream world, even if you do marry, will not prepare you for daily life with another imperfect human.
When you are invited somewhere, let it be known that you really appreciate it. In turn, just because you are single, do not develop the attitude that others should always entertain you. Be ready to extend hospitality, no matter how modest.
A word of caution here, however. It is not wise to convey to others the idea that your only aim in life is to enjoy a party and ‘have fun.’ Strive to develop practical, mind-improving interests. Take care of yourself physically, for your appearance does reflect what you think of yourself. Also, displaying an attractive personality is so often a matter of balance. Try not to be so withdrawn that you contribute nothing to a conversation or group activity, while avoiding the opposite extreme of being overbearing, constantly talking.
If you do decide to date, it is extremely unwise to date several different people at one time. You will be so emotionally confused that an intelligent choice is virtually impossible. Not only that, you are really perpetrating a fraud since you can only marry one. And besides hurting another you may acquire the reputation of a “flirt” or ‘insincere cheat.’ If you are so uncertain about a person’s being what you desire, why keep close company?
Now, suppose you find a mutual attraction growing between you and a ‘special friend.’ How can thinking ability and emotional maturity guide you through courtship?
A Realistic Courtship
Courtship should be a time of happiness. Yet if the flowering tree of spring brings forth bad fruitage later, the remembered blossoms are small compensation.
It is good to be able to laugh and have fun together. To walk by the seashore and just “talk and talk” can be very meaningful. Still, you need to remember that courtship has another purpose—preparation for marriage. If your courtship includes such practical things as shopping together or studying together, you are better prepared for the crucial transition to matrimony.
And while there is a great desire to please your boyfriend or girl friend, try hard not to put on “airs” or be someone you are not. Many, in fear of losing a prospective mate, end up virtually acting out a role. The question is, How long can you keep acting? This is one reason that a sufficiently long period of courtship is advisable.
Yet even if a courtship goes along smoothly, how can you really be sure of your feelings and the “rightness” of the match? Often when young people ask this question of married persons they get an answer such as “You just know.” Know what?
Well, you realize that besides wanting each other, you come to a point of mutual trust. You want to do things for each other, to give to each other. You clearly see the many beliefs and interests that you share in common. And you recognize not only the present depth of relationship but also its potential. All of this is part of genuine love.
Frequently today youths go their own way and suddenly bring home to their family a stranger to whom they are “engaged.” But there is much wisdom in the “old-fashioned” approach of talking to older persons about the individual that you are contemplating marrying and about your own feelings. Often those not emotionally involved can help you to make a more realistic decision.
The sincere Christian also recognizes the need to go to the greatest source of wisdom, the Creator of marriage. A servant of God realizes that such a far-reaching decision deserves much prayer and meditation. He remembers the Bible proverb: ‘Have you found a good wife (or, husband)? You have found a good thing, and you get goodwill from Jehovah.’ (Prov. 18:22) Considering the obstacles to a successful marriage, certainly God’s “goodwill” should be fervently sought.
Once a firm commitment has been made to wed, you cannot afford to lessen your efforts to get to know your fiancé or fiancée. In one college study the conclusion was drawn that “most engaged couples today spend much of their engagement time worrying about their weddings—and not enough planning about the kind of married life they’ll have after the wedding.” Really, on into marriage, an attitude of being eager to know and adjust to your partner is vital. It’s an “investment” in harmony and happiness.
However, some may read with despair these guidelines on finding a mate. They have tried many of these suggestions and they are still alone.
“I Can’t Find Anyone”
Today many single people face a most difficult reality. Because of circumstance—handicap, age, family responsibilities—they know that the opportunities for them to marry are few, if any. As one elderly widow expressed it: “There are fewer men at my age than women, and many of them are interested in younger women.” If you are in such a situation, what can you do?
Well, you may consider most of what we have stated as not applying in your case. But reflect for a moment. We have encouraged an honest appraisal of yourself, a careful widening out in your friendships. We have urged you to form meaningful relationships with others rather than to draw off to yourself in a dream world. You will find it true that there is more happiness in giving and whether you eventually marry or not you will not regret having a positive view of life. It offers so much more.
Sadly, some have allowed themselves to get into such a state of mind that when an unexpected opportunity to have a good marriage comes along, they are not prepared. On the other hand, to be obsessed with what you do not have is emotionally unhealthy. It is just as dangerous as when a married person constantly dwells on the freedoms he or she would have if single. It will not bring happiness.
Many lonely people have experienced that their way to happiness is in forming a deep relationship with their Creator. Realizing that there is a loving God, discovering how much he cares and what a purposeful life they can lead in serving him has brought them a contentment that they thought they would never find.—Ps. 55:22; 73:28.
It has also led them to enjoyable association with others who could help them. As one woman expressed it: “One of the things that attracted me most to Jehovah’s Witnesses was the warmth and genuine spirit of kindness that they showed. And the reception I received at the Kingdom Hall was very impressive. I was a very self-centered person, caring only for myself. The Bible truth helped me to see that it is better to give than to receive.” And certainly among such trustworthy Christians a person has a much better opportunity of finding an honest, balanced marriage mate.
So while the road to wedlock today has its difficulties and dangers, you can use thinking ability to avoid the modern “singles” trend, which so often is simply a series of disasters. By rejecting the myths and emotionally damaging practices of the majority, by following Bible principles, you do have a much better chance for finding a good marital match. Solid unions continue to be formed. This is because there remain people who will give of themselves within this God-arranged institution of marriage, which still contains every possibility for lasting joy.